Menopause is a natural process that all women experience as they get older. In the United States the average age of menopause is 51  and it marks the end of natural fertility when a woman’s menstrual cycle stops.
It is very common for women to start having the symptoms of menopause for months or even years leading up to the menopause itself and this is where hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help.
Symptoms of Menopause
Women going through menopause may experience some or all of these symptoms in the months or years leading up to menopause :
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness and low sexual desire
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
If any of these symptoms sound familiar or you find that your day to day activities are being impacted by them, be sure to make an appointment to see your OBGYN. They can help diagnose menopause by taking a quick history and a simple blood test. Even if you’re not sure if you’re in menopause or not, the presence of any of these symptoms is always a good reason to have a check-up.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a term that most people are familiar with. It is a type of medication that is used to help treat the symptoms of menopause. For example, hot flashes that keep you up at night and disturb your sleep, vaginal dryness that affects sexual intimacy or mood changes that are unpredictable and lower your ability to function are times when it might be appropriate to see your doctor.
Hormone replacement therapy works by replacing the hormones estrogen and progesterone that the body loses during menopause. Over the past few years HRT has received some negative media attention but it remains the most commonly prescribed medication that is used in the treatment of menopause symptoms. Doctors usually recommend HRT because it still has many benefits over other medications.
How can Hormone Replacement Therapy Help Me?
Hormone replacement therapy can help improve night sweats, hot flushes and muscles aches and pains . It can also help with vaginal dryness, sexual function, sleep and generally improve the quality of life of women that have prolonged and significant menopause symptoms .
Are there Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy?
The short answer to this question is yes. Hormone replacement therapy may not be for everyone but your OBGYN can recommend some other good alternatives that will suit your lifestyle.
1) Mayo Clinic. Menopause. January 2015
2,3) Patient.co.uk. Hormone Replacement Therapy (including Benefits and Risks). Last checked February 2016.